December 15, 2014.
On October 31, 1517, it is said that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a Catholic church that challenged the authority and understanding of the clergy and then went on to create a rift so bad that to this day Protestants and Catholics are at odds with one another. The thing is, it was never Martin Luther’s intention to split the church, but rather to call for reform. I hope you don’t see my post today as anywhere near as dramatic as this fateful day in 1517, but I do think it is time that we look at ourselves and figure out if what we believe and teach is actually in line with what the bible says (or doesn’t say) about any given topic. Please do not read my post in blind anger, but listen to the point I am trying to make. To be clear, I am not saying that everything we do is wrong. I am not saying that each of these points display what I believe the truth to be on the matter (that should make more sense when you read on). I am not saying that we have intentionally strayed from the word of God, nor am I saying that I do not make these same mistakes or know exactly what the answer is on all of them. But what I am pointing out is simply the inconsistency we have when interpreting the bible. I believe there is a way to fix this inconsistency, but it is going to take time and an open mind to truth, and not the dogma we have been taught for so long. I believe we can get back to the pure form of Christianity as it was established by our Lord and Savior. I do not believe we are there yet.
In saying all that, I’d like to start out with a question. Have we created our own religion? We often preach about how false teachers pick and choose the different parts of the bible they want to believe and teach and how bad of a thing that is to do. Have we done it ourselves by way of inconsistency? We use a model of interpretation of Command, Example and Necessary Inference (CENI) to figure out what the bible is trying to say to us (see yesterday’s post for a more in depth look at inconsistent use of examples). But in this model, we only seem to apply it when we like what is being said. Further, our motto has been “We speak where the bible speaks and we’re silent where the bible is silent,” but as a video I watched recently from Rick Atchely pointed out, what our motto really should be is “We speak were the bible speaks, and where the bible is silent, we have a whole lot more to say.” Today I would just like to compare our differing interpretations of CENI and biblical silence to simply point out the inconsistency, and then where we seem to even go against what the bible says in some instances. Again, I am not by way of any of these revealing what I necessarily believe on the particular instance, but only pointing out that we need to reevaluate where we stand and why we stand there, in light of only biblical evidence, not our own biases and predijuuices. Please consider these words carefully.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Command: Go make disciples all around the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things Jesus commanded.
Our interpretation: Go make disciples all around the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things Jesus commanded.
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Command: For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Our Interpretation: Well, Jesus wasn’t saying that we should literally wash each other’s feet, but rather to be servants.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Command: You must do what Jesus says, not just call Him Lord. You must build your foundation on Jesus, the solid rock.
Our Interpretation: Yes, we must do what Jesus says and not just call Him Lord! He must be the foundation!
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
Command: Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Give away anything that’s asked of you, and even more. Give to those who beg. Do not demand things back that are taken from you. Lend, expecting nothing in return (further down in the passage).
Our Interpretation: Umm, yeah. Those are good things to do. But you need to be careful who you help, because you know, they might be doing drugs or drinking alcohol. Or you might be enabling them. And the whole enemy, thing… I love the person and hate the sin, right? I mean, we have to protect ourselves and our family, right? We can pray for them and still hope they fall, right? And what do you mean, lend and expect nothing in return? That doesn’t even make sense. Okay, I’m glad we read this passage. Let’s go on to the next one.
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
(I Timothy 2:11-14)
Command: I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.
Our Interpretation: This was not cultural. Woman are not to be in roles in the church where they teach or to exercise authority over a (Christian) man.
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”
Command: Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
Our Interpretation: This was cultural. Anointing with oil doesn’t really have a place in our assemblies today because we are not in the apostolic age.
“And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.”
Example: They both went down into the water. Baptism was taught and was administered by immersion.
Our Interpretation: They both went down into the water. Baptism was taught and was administered by immersion.
“And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.”
Example: Paul was told to partake in a Jewish custom to show to Jewish Christians that he still upheld the law.
Our Interpretation: Umm, no. We are not under the law. This does not apply to us.
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”
Example 1: The disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread.
Our Interpretation: We are commanded to come together on Sunday mornings to have a worship period and partake in the Lord’s supper.
Example 2: This was a night meeting, Paul spoke until midnight, there was a boy who feel out of a window and died, he was resurrected, the disciples didn’t break bread until the early hours in the morning after everything had happened.
Our Interpretation: Yeah, no. That doesn’t matter. That’s not the example we are supposed to follow.
“Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Necessary Inference: Philip preached about Jesus, the Eunuch asked to be baptized. Therefore, preaching about Jesus included preaching about baptism.
Our Interpretation: Philip preached about Jesus, the Eunuch asked to be baptized. Therefore, preaching about Jesus included preaching about baptism.
“Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Necessary Inference: Jesus disciples would fast after He left physically.
Our Interpretation: Fasting can be good, but it is in no way necessary to being a disciple of Jesus.
Where the bible is silent.
The New Testament on Instrumental music in worship.
What the bible says: …
Our Interpretation: Using instrumental music in worship is sinful and I cannot fellowship with you if you do.
The New Testament on song books, pitch pipes, projector screens, and song leaders.
What the bible says: …
Our Interpretation: These things are a very good aid to our worship and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them.
The New Testament on church buildings, static preachers, supporting disaster relief funds, or Wednesday night bible classes.
What the bible says: …
Our Interpretation: All these things are well and good, and are profitable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them.
Where the bible speaks:
What the bible says:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”
(I Thessalonians 5:19-21)
What we say: Don’t have too much emotion in church. The Spirit is inside of us, but He doesn’t really do much besides help us with our infirmities and help us pray. And prophecies? No, they don’t happen any more. But that last part, that part we should pay attention to! Prove all things! Hold fast that which is good!
What the bible says:
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.”
What we say: See, if Noah had used anything else along with the gofer wood, the ark would have sunk. This is very applicable to what we do today. Thus, you cannot use instrumental music, because it is like Noah using gofer wood AND cedar.
What the bible says:
“And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets.”
(II Chronicles 29:25)
What we say: No, God only allowed instrumental music in the Old Testament. He didn’t really like it. Besides, that was Old Testament Law and we are not under that today. This is not applicable.
What the bible says:
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.”
What we say: See! Alcohol is always bad!
What the bible says:
“And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.”
What we say: Umm, obviously the “wine” and “strong drink” here are not actually fermented. Besides, that is Old Testament law, and we are not under that any more.
What the bible says:
“(No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.)”
(I Timothy 5:23)
What we say: This doesn’t apply anymore because now we have medicine.
What the bible says:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?”
What we say: You should wear your best dress to church on Sunday morning because it shows reverence to the Lord, giving your best.
I could go on (trust me, there are more, such as overlooking all the many passages about the importance of Christian unity), but I think I have made my point. Again, don’t read this in anger, but rather think about it. Why are we inconsistent? Why have we just accepted the traditions that have been handed down to us without question? Why do we believe the way we do. I think this is a gaping problem in our theology that needs to be fixed before it is completely exploited by others who disagree with the good points of our theology. But even more importantly than that, it needs to be fixed because we are going beyond what the bible actually teaches, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (ref. Matt. 5:19). We need to take the word of God as a whole instead of quoting proof texts and pulling the commands that we like out of it while ignoring the rest. It is time for an awakening, a revival, a reform.
I pray that this reform does not follow the course of Martin Luther’s reformation.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 23, Romans 14, I Corinthians 2, James 2.
Speak as the oracles of God.